Virginia father arrested in Turks and Caicos for having ammo in bag to be released on time served

A Turks and Caicos judge on Tuesday sentenced Tyler Wenrich, a Virginia husband and father to a 1-year-old boy, to time served and ordered him to pay a $9,000 fine for unknowingly possessing ammunition in his luggage while visiting the islands.

Wenrich faced the possibility of a 12-year prison sentence on the islands after authorities arrested him in April for unknowingly having stray two stray bullets in his luggage on a cruise ship while he was headed back home from a wedding party trip.

"It's a backpack… that I hadn't used in a while, but I had used it previously for carrying supplies in my car and going to the shooting range. So I pulled it out for this trip, checked it, went through TSA security, went through port security in Miami. It was about a day and a half sail to Grand Turk, and then we spent a day here," Wenrich previously told Fox News Digital. "So it was about 8 to 9 hours that we spent on the island. And then when I was boarding the ship, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, they scanned the bag, found one bullet, scanned the bag again, found the second bullet." 

Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Good said in a Tursday statement he is "pleased" that Wenrich "has received a sentence of a fine and time served for the charges against him, and that he will be returning home this week to be reunited with his family, friends and the community he serves."

"This is the result we were seeking on my trip with congressional colleagues last week to the Turks & Caicos," Good said. "We met with government officials to advocate for the release of all the American detainees who were facing a 12-year prison sentences for accidental and non-threatening offenses. In Tyler's case, it was two stray rounds of ammunition that had fallen into the liner of his backpack. We are thankful to all who worked and prayed on Tyler's behalf."

Five Americans have been arrested since February for possessing ammunition on the islands under a recent ordinance that requires both residents and tourists to face a minimum of 12 years for the crime. 

One of those Americans, Bryan Hagerich, received a 52-week suspended sentence and was ordered to pay a $6,700 fine on May 24. He was back home in Pennsylvania with his wife and two young children later that evening.

Wenrich, 31; Hagerich, 39, and the other Americans who were arrested for ammunition possession on the islands have to prove that they were arrested under extraordinary circumstances in order to get a lighter punishment.


Virginia father detained in Turks and Caicos for stray ammo pleads guilty

A Virginia man has pleaded guilty to one count of possession of ammunition in Turks and Caicos (TCI) after airport security found stray bullets in his luggage as he prepared to fly home last month.

Wenrich was initially arrested on April 20 following a wedding party in Turks and Caicos and pleaded guilty in court on Monday, when both prosecutors and his defense team presented oral arguments, he told Fox News Digital. Wenrich had traveled from Virginia to Florida, where he boarded a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and then docked in Turks and Caicos. Cruise ship security found two stray bullets in his bag when he was about to board the ship to go back home.

Cruise ship authorities then sent Wenrich to local police, which is the moment he "knew things were going sideways."

The other Americans arrested in Turks for having stray ammo, including Sharitta Grier of Florida, Ryan Watson of Oklahoma and Michael Lee Evans of Texas, were arrested at airports on the islands.

"Everybody else has been at the airport, so that's a lot different than their cases," Wenrich said of his own case. "But as far as the charge goes, it's very similar. We were actually able to meet with them in person last week and go to lunch and kind of talk about those things, as well. But we keep in daily communication with each other."

Wenrich said the support he and his family have received from both friends and locals back home, as well as from the other Americans in Turks and Caicos, has been "phenomenal."

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro sent a letter to Turks and Caicos Gov. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam to urge the release of Watson, Hagerich and Wenrich.

"Like thousands of Americans each year, these individuals traveled to your beautiful territory recently for leisure," the governors wrote in a joint letter shared with Fox News Digital. "They have all maintained that they did not intend to bring ammunition into Turks and Caicos, and any ammunition unknowingly left in their luggage was the result of lawful conduct in the United States. We understand that none of them were carrying firearms."

Various members of Congress have spoken publicly about the issue of Americans being detained in Turks and Caicos over ammunition possession. A congressional delegation met with TCI government leaders earlier this month to discuss the potential release of Americans detained over the ammunition ordinance, to no avail.

"The U.S. delegation raised five cases of US nationals currently before the courts, concern for their well-being and clarification on the legal process," the TCI Governor's Office said in a May 13 statement. "In order to maintain the integrity of the legal process, the Governor confirmed it would not be appropriate to facilitate the delegation’s request to meet with the Chief Justice."

The governor and the premier also said "they cannot intervene nor comment on ongoing legal cases before the courts," the statement continued. "They explained that the Turks and Caicos Islands have clear laws prohibiting the possession of firearms and/or ammunition and strict penalties are in place to serve and protect all who reside and visit the Turks and Caicos Islands."

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